Now in its fourth year, Archbold Health Service’s Hospice of Southwest Georgia dog therapy team has helped bring love and comfort to many hospice patients. And the program, which has grown tremendously since it started just four years ago, is looking to add more dedicated dog owners and their pets to the dog therapy team.
“Studies have shown that interaction with dogs can promote relaxation and relieve agitation, anxiety and stress in patients,” said Leigh Ann Falconer, coordinator of the dog therapy program and owner of Bark Busters Red Hills, a home dog training company. “Our volunteers and their dogs visit patients in their home, in the hospital, in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. It’s always very fulfilling to see the smiles from patients and their loved ones when we visit. ”
According to Falconer, good therapy dogs are quick learners with loving, easy-going personalities and can stay calm in unusual or stressful situations.
“Handlers complete special training with their dogs through pre-therapy classes, and the dogs also complete Therapy Dog International (TDI) testing to become certified therapy dogs,” said Falconer. “The training helps dogs and their handlers know how to handle sensitive situations that could potentially occur while the team is volunteering.”
Bark Busters Red Hills will hold a six-week general group training class that will also cover therapy dog training starting Tuesday, October 27, 2015, at 6:00pm at the Thomasville Animal Hospital located at 1103 Smith Avenue. The cost of the six-week course is $100 if registered before October 20, and $125 thereafter, and covers the dog obedience course and all testing and registration fees required to become a volunteer in the Hospice of Southwest Georgia Therapy Dog Program. Each class will last approximately one hour.
To enroll in the class or for more information on how you and your dog can participate, call Leigh Ann Falconer, 229-403-9147 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.